Known and reared throughout the Imperium for their highly mobile way of war, the Space Marines of the White Scars are the masters of the lightning strike method of attack, able to tear into their foes and vanish before they can respond. Fierce warriors, bearing the ritual scars of bravery, they fight with all the tribal savagery of their home world and bring swift death to all enemies of the Imperium.
The Apocrypha of Skaros speaks of the White Scars only rarely and even the text is coloured by the fact that much of what is said comes from the White Scars themselves. One legend tells that their young Primarch set out on his own from Terra to discover the galaxy for himself, while another speaks of him being abducted as a baby. The truth is likely to be somewhere in-between. Whatever the true story, the Liber Historica Vangelia records that Jaghatai Khan arrived at a world in the Segmentum Pacificus designated by Imperial cartographers as Mundus Planus, but known to its inhabitants as Chogoris. It was, and still is, a fertile world with lush greenery, soaring mountains and azure seas, which, at the time of the Great Crusade, had achieved a blackpowder level of technology. A Census Imperialis of the day records that the dominant Chogorian empire at this time was an organized aristocracy which had conquered most of the planet with well-equipped and highly disciplined armies. Armoured horsemen and densely packed blocks of infantry had won every campaign their ruler, the Palatine, had fought.
The history of the White Scars begins with Jaghatai Khan, one of the greatest military strategists of all time. It is thought that one of his generals, Ogedei, penned `The Great Khan of Quan Zhou` after the Primarch`s disappearance, and it is this ancient text which has provided Imperial historians with one of the best accounts of his life. Chogorian sources have also left copious and often wildly exaggerated records of his exploits.
To the west of Palatine`s empire was a vast, wind-blown steppe, known as the Empty Quarter, home to nomadic tribes of savage horsemen who for centuries had roamed the vast grasslands. The tribes of the steppes lived in tents and followed a cycle of seasonal migration from summer pastures to protected winter valleys in the Khum Karta Mountains. Comsummate horsemen and archers, these disparate tribes frequently fought one another for control of ancestral pastureland or - as Ogedei`s Opus would have it - the sheer joy of battle. Chogorian armies had never invaded the Empty Quarter as the dry and desolate lands were of no value to the Palatine. However, Chogorian nobles would often lead hunting bands into the steppes and take whole tribes east as slaves or capture a lone tribesmen to hunt through the mountains for sport. (Many passages in `The Great Khan` are devoted to detailing the full extent of Chogorian atrocities. The blood rituals and sacrifices described within these passages have led many Imperial scholars to postulate that the Palatine`s empire may have been dedicated to worship of the Dark Gods.)
Jaghatai Khan`s legend began near the Quonon river when Ong Khan, the leader of a small tribe known as the Talskars, encountered the Primarch. He believed that the glowing child was a gift from the gods and took him into his family and named him Jaghatai. It was said of Jaghatai that since his early childhood he had a `fire in his eyes`, a Talaskar term for a great warrior. It was also said about him that rival tribes hated the child because he had the wisdom to see beyond the constant warfare of the steppes.
A colourful passage in `The Great Khan of Quan Zhou` known as `The Blooding` relates that while Jaghatai was young, raiders from the rival Kurayed tribe slew his adopted father and killed many of the Talaskar men in a vicious ambush. Jaghatai was already the greatest warrior amongst his tribe with many ritual scars of courage, and warriors flocked to join him when he set out to avenge these deaths. He led an attack on the Kurayed village and razed it to the ground, killing every man, woman and child in a frenzied massacre. Jaghatai bathed in his enemies` blood and took their chieftain`s head to mount above his tent. It was these events that were to shape the Primarch into the man he would become - a man of fierce honour, loyalty and ruthlessness. With blood and honour satisfied, Jaghatai swore to bring an end to the destructive intemecine wars that were destroying his people, to unite the people of the Empty Quarter, and to bring an end to brother fighting brother.
Following this victory, Jaghatai becam Khan of the Talaskars and fought many battles against Chogorian hunting bands and other tribes of the steppes. Each defeated tribe was brought within the Talaskars and became part of his army. His military talents and the sheer force of his personality won him many followers and soon his warriors numbered like the stars, the army becoming known as the Mathuli, a Talaskar word meaning `irresistible force`. He made military service mandatory and combined warriors of different tribes into the same units to break up tribal associations, fostering a fierce loyalty to the army and ultimately to himself. He promoted men purely on the basis of ability and brought a feeling of shared purpose to everyone he came into contact with.
Ten summers after Jaghatai`s victory against the Kurayed, while the army was moving to its winter camp in the mountains, Jaghatai was pitched from treacherous cliffs when a freak avalanche carried him and dozens of others thousands of feet to the rocks below. After much lamentation, the tribe continued onwards. But while the fall had killed the tribesmen, the Primarch managed to survive. Chogorian history records that at this time a hunting band led by the Palatine`s only son discovered a wounded tribesman deep in the mountains and began hunting him through the snows. What exactly happened in the freezing valleys of the mountains is unknown, but a single, horribly mutilated rider tied to his saddle was all that finally returned to Chogorian lands, the head of the Palatine`s son hung around his neck. The man also carried a message from Jaghatai, `The people of the steppes are yours no longer.`.
When the snows retreated, the enraged Palatine gathered an army and marched west, determined to wipe the barbarian tribes from the face of the planet. But he had underestimated the skill and cunning of Jaghatai Khan. In the Valley of the Khans, on the Lon-Suen Plain, the Palatine`s armies met Jaghatai forces. The battle was said to have lasted a day and night. The tribes of the steppes fought like they hunted, a ring of lightning fast horsemen coordinating movements to corral their human quarry. Unlike their enemy, who wore heavy steel mail, the Mathuli wore light leather armour, allowing for less protection, but greater mobility.
Accustomed to decisive hand-to-hand combat with their foes, the Palatine`s army was no match for the Khan`s horsemen and their relentless bowfire. Though significally outnumbered, Jaghatai outmaneuvered, out-thought, and out-fought them. The defeated Palatine and his bodyguards were only just able to fight their way through the Mathuli ring of death and fled to the capital city. Those soldiers who remained were slaughtered almost to a man. One Chogorian survivor described the battle plain as an ocean of blood. The tribal leaders and holy men, the Stormseers, gatheres after the battle and proclaimed Jaghatai the Great Khan, Ruler of all Within the Lands.
Jaghatai Khan then began the invasion of the Palatine`s realm, three of his armies drawing off forces by attacking cities on the outskirts of his enemy`s domain. Jaghatai and his most able general, Subedei, led another army across a secret route through the Kuzil Quan desert, a region believed to be impenetrable. Emerging seemingly from nowhere, Jaghatai`s army surprised the Palatine`s garrison at the gates of Kushaba and slaughtered the entire force. Other cities fell in quick succession and Chogorian historians record that bodies littered the roads like stones in a quarry, razed fields smoldered, and those few who were spared the carnage prayed for deliverance from the fury of the Khan.
In the years that followed, Jaghatai`s army overran Chogorian lands, defeating their best armies, storming their walled cities, and slaying its nobles. Cities that lay in Jaghatai Khan`s path had two choices: surrender or face total destruction. Never before had such pillage and plunder been witnessed. Some sources claim that millions were killed by the bloodthirsty tribesmen, but contemporaries of Jaghatai Khan assert that these figures are vastly inflated. However, it is certain that many hundreds of thousands died and the people of the Chogorian empire believed that the `devil-faced savages` were supernatural demons exacting divine vengeance for the sins of man. Eventually Jaghatai`s invasion reached the Palatine`s stronghold, Cophasta, a magnificently rich city on the eastern coast. He demanded his enemy`s head on a spear or the city would die and he would leave no stone standing. Wihtin the hour, a group of nobles from the city brought him that very thing.
The Khan`s power now stretched from ocean to ocean, the largest empire the planet had ever known, conquered by a single man in less than twenty years. Though Jaghatai Khan dominated a vast area, he knew that his people had no desire to rule such a realm. His new empire had grown from his urge to unite the tribes and exact vengeance upon his enemies, not from any hunger to occupy their lands. Ultimate power rested with the Khan and his generals and although they were well organized militarily, the tribes had no developed concept for ruling settled populations.
The historian, Carpinus, who compiled a detailed history of the Great Crusade (the so-called Speculum Historiale), notes that Jaghatai`s armies finished the destruction of the Palatine`s realm a mere six months before the Emperor reached Chogoris. When the two men met, it is said that the Khan knew he had met someone who embodied the ultimate ideal he had striven for, a man who could unite all the stars in the sky. At his palace in the city of Quan Zhou, in front of all his generals, he dropped to one knee and swore eternal fealty to the Emperor. The Primarch was given command of the 5th Legion, which adopted the long facial scars of the Talaskr tribesmen that ran from forehead to chin, and renamed themselves the White Scars. The Great Khan ascended to the heavens with the emperor, passing the Khanship to his general Ogedei. Many of Jaghatai`s followers elected to join their Khan and became Space Marines within Legion.
The White Scars went on to fight in some of the bloodiest battles of the Great Crusade and the lightning fast style of warfare employed by Jaghatai Khan on the steppes would prove to be equally effective on the nightmare battlefields of distant worlds. During the Horus Heresy, when the White Scars fought on scores of different worlds and their banners indicate that the Legion helped to defend Terra and fought at the gates of the Imperial Palace.
Chogoris is a fertile world that still exists in a semi-feudal state. With the departure of the Great Khan, Ogedei became the new leader of the tribes and, while he was a great warrior, he was no Jaghatai Khan. Without the Primarch, the tribes soon returned to their warring ways and within the space of a few years, the unified nation created by Jaghatai had ceased to exist. The tribes went back to the homelands and life carried on much as it had before the arrival of the Great Khan. Some of the Primarch`s biographers claim that Jaghatai Khan must have known that this would happen and yet left anyway. They suggest that perhaps he desired it in order to keep his people strong to provide future recruits for his new Legion. Indeed, in the millennia that followed, many men would rise to unite the tribes, but none as spectacularly as Jaghatai Khan.
The leader of the White Scars is known as the Great Khan and dwells in Jaghatai`s palace of Quan Zhou, atop the highest, most inaccessible peak in the Khum Karta mountains. The marbled fortress monastery is a magnificent sight, but few outsiders have ever been allowed withtin. The city and its savage beauty is famed throughout the Segmentum and its walls are said to contain rivers and forests running with game, which the Khan hunts for sport.
The Stormseers of the White Scars venture down into the steppes every ten summers to observe the tribes and their battles, picking the best and bravest warriors and returning them to Quan Zhou to become Space Marines. The pyre-tombs of fallen White Scars in the Khum Karta (which means `The Mountains that Scrape the Stars`) are places of great pilgrimage for young tribal warriors, and those that survive a journey through one of these dangerous valleys are considered especially courageous.
The method of war taught to the tribes by Jaghatai Khan has served them well in the millennia, following his reunification with the Emperor. Lightning fast hit and run attacks by highly mobile forces that destroy the enemy piece by piece and never allow a decisive engagement is their modus operandum. Speeding bikes and ultra-rapid deployment means that the White Scars can react much more swiftly than most Chapters and are almost never outmaneuvered on the battlefield.
Heavily armoured opponents find themselves chasing shadows as the White Scars encircle their forces and attack where they are weakest. Many an enemy who thought himself safe behind his lines has learned the error of his ways when howling White Scars Scout Bikers come speeding out of nowhere to attack his flanks and rear. Having been born in the saddle, the Scouts regularly take to the field of battle mounted on their bikes.
Though the Space Marines of the White Scars prefer to keep their enemies at arms length, they are fully capable of engaging in bloody assaults. The elite bike squads are rightly feared and Assault squads dropping from the skies on trails of fire and attacking with howling bloodlust are a terrifying sight with their fearsome scarred faces.
The predominant organizational unit amongst the people of the steppes is the tribe and a measure of this is true of the Legion itself. Fierce rivalries, blood-feuds and internecine warfare are a way of life for the young men of the steppes and help to prepare them for when they must fight to prove their worth to the Legion`s Stormseers. However, once a warrior has been chosen to join the White Scars, his tribal allegiance is replaced with loyalty to the Great Khan. Warriors from different tribes are therefore mixed with one another in squads to break up individual tribal loyalties. Squads are then organized into Brotherhoods, units which are roughly equivalent in size to a Codex company, though on average are slightly smaller.
The remainder of the Legion is organized slightly differently than most Legions, due to the higher proportion of Bike squads and Land Speeder squadrons. The White Scars preferred fighting style does not allow them the use of as many heavy weapons as other Legions and as a result they have no Devastator squads. Their reliance on fast moving fire support also means that most tanks are too slow for the White Scars, and those they do have are stripped down versions that can keep up with the rest of the army. Dreadnoughts are not employed by the White Scars, as the cold, metal sarcophagi of these mighty constructions evokes a horror of eternal confinement that goes against the White Scars` philosophy that when a warrior dies, his soul should be free to travel to the afterlife.
The White Scars Space Marines hold true to the vision of Jaghatai Khan in the ultimate unification of Humanity. They venerate the Emperor as the ultimate Uniter and as their founding father, but not as a deity.
The lightning bolt is a potent symbol to the White Scars, as it exemplifies their style of battle and echoes the warrior scars they bear on their faces. It also represents the lightning which the Stormseers call to smite their enemies, and these sinister warriors preach that so long as the spirits of air and land heed their call, the White Scars will never falter in battle.
The gene-seed of the White Scars appears to be stable and initially displayed on aberrations or mutation. However, with the introduction of genetic material from the steppes tribesmen, the genome seems to have inherited their wild savagery and thirst for war. Despite the teachings of the Khans and Stormseers, it is not unheard of for tribal feuds to flare up between fellow squad members. In addition to this, there have been several recorded instances where White Scars Brotherhoods have bloodily exceeded their mission objectives, such as the infamous `Red Highway Massacre`.
Whether such incidents are as a result of some inherent flaw in the White Scars` genetic material or came about after the integration of the tribesmen is unknown, but the Adeptus Mechanicus is eager to know which.
`For the Khan and the Emperor!`